“You have to stand up for some things in this world.” ― Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Growing up with a mother who was a Civil Rights Movement leader and child advocate, I learned early on that progress requires prolonged, effective struggle.
Here at Stand for Children we are on that journey. We stand up and speak out every day for the right of children and young people to receive a high-quality education, to be safe from gun violence at school and in their communities, and, in the case of Dreamers, to remain in and contribute to this nation.
From this report, you’ll learn about significant steps forward we achieved for students in the past year in concert with our partners. We’re making a major difference in support of high school students’ success, increasing funding equity, increasing the number of high-quality schools in under-served communities, expanding teacher home visiting, and completing a successful first year of the Middle School Kindness Challenge, just to name a few areas of focus.
As you know, the heart of Stand for Children is parent leaders, and there is one parent leader’s story that stands highest in our hearts and minds. DeJuana McMitchell was a graduate of our Stand University for Parents (Stand UP) program and an active member of Stand for Children in Indianapolis. A mother of two, she wanted a better education for her children than Elder W. Diggs School 42 was providing. So, when the possibility arose for School 42 to be turned into an Innovation Network School with new leadership, despite pushback from many who feared the change, DeJuana took a stand, enlisting other parents and testifying in support before the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) School Board.
After months of struggle, strongly backed by Stand for Children Organizer Ashley Thomas (whose own children attend an IPS school that went from being F-rated to becoming an Innovation School that, three years later, and is now an A-rated school) DeJuana and her fellow parents prevailed. Elder W. Diggs school is now run by Ignite Achievement Academy and is on the path to success. It has energetic, diverse new leadership and a new sense of possibility.
Tragically, DeJuana McMitchell will never get to see her children’s school improve the way Ashley Thomas and so many other Indianapolis parents have. On August 11th, DeJuana was murdered, another victim of the senseless and preventable gun violence that is terrorizing our cities and traumatizing our children. DeJuana’s children, who had already lost their father to gun violence, are now without both parents. They will be raised by their aunt, a mother of two who works at School 42.
DeJuana’s story underscores both how much we can positively impact the quality of children’s education through prolonged, effective struggle, but also why we can’t confine our struggle strictly to education.
At the end of the day, we’re here to create a more just society, where race, zip code, or country of origin doesn’t define a child’s life prospects. Access to quality education from early childhood through post-secondary is fundamental to real opportunity, but more is required.
I am honored to be standing with our parent leaders and with you in this lifelong struggle to create a more just and humane society where children of all backgrounds have a true opportunity to reach their potential.
Co-founder and CEO of Stand for Children